The Bestest Best Tactics Of 2014: Door Kickers

Long for a tactical diversion fit for a five minute or five hour play session? Door Kickers will satisfy, by being able to meet the needs of genre-newcomers, the time-poor, as well as those who know their crisscross from their buttonhook.

Graham: Door Kickers can be simply described as being like Frozen Synapse with a lick of Rainbow Six paint, but it’s also a lesson in the power of theme and setting.

It’s not to say that I don’t enjoy Frozen Synapse’s electric blue or future fiction, but the pause-and-move tactics of Door Kickers is made all the more compelling by its drug dens and terrorist towns, its fumbled flashbangs and off-screen snipers, its swatted SWATS and crumpling crims. Synapse came alive for me only in multiplayer, where its abstractions were given meaning by competition; Door Kickers works in singleplayer because I instinctively want to protect my fleshy officers and fragile hostages.

The setting also turns simple, tactical decision making into simple, memorable stories. I harped on about this for Qvadriga also, but I love turn-based games where narrative emerges from the logic and numbers. Door Kickers has that not because of persistence or named soldiers, but because its levels create a different drama with every attempt.

The first attempt to storm a house might turn into a tale of front door folly, as you flashbang-breach but lose most of your men to an enemy behind cover because you didn’t take the time to peak under the door with a camera. The second, a beach landing which forces the enemy to retreat inside the house, but in so doing gives them opportunity to establish a near unassailable entrenched position. The third, a long, attritional battle that leaves you with one man edging through corridors till a roving do-wronger blasts you in your six.

None of these stories are fit for even a Tom Clancy game, but it’s notable that I’ve noted them. These are three failures amid a dozen others still swimming in my brain from a single level I played weeks ago.

The credit for that goes partly to the understandable setting, but also to the tactical options offered and the AI’s ability to adapt and surprise. Each of the above failures wasn’t prompted by a prescribed situation, though levels are fixed and enemy positions only somewhat randomised. They were the result of fifty decisions I’d made previously during the same mission: that sniper shot I took too early; that flashbang I wasted; that angle I forgot to cover. You are the master of your own demise and every decision is significant.

Thankfully the game’s retention of previous plans between attempts mean that it only takes a minute to return to your previous situation and try again after each failure. Instead of repetitive, there’s a feeling of moving incrementally towards perfection, of drawing blueprints till you have the swift replay of a flawless breach and clear.

It is also, blissfully, simple. In Tim’s review he hoped for greater complexity to its moveset, while also hoping that it wouldn’t damage the game’s lightweight core. I’m happy with things the way they are. You can’t lean or shoot through thin objects or crouch, but Door Kickers justifies every absence by the thriftiness with which it delivers fun, fiendish and memorable challenges.

Adam:

SWAT 4 might well be the best tactical first-person game ever made and despite differing in perspective, Door Kickers is the closet thing to a modern successor. I hadn’t paid much attention to the game until Tim Stone’s review because the apparent flippancy of the title made me think it’d be a gimmicky little thing, light on either ideas or content. Oops.

I can often be seen in the local branch of Waterstones snootily judging books by their covers.

Door Kickers is a smashing top-down tactical masterclass, with enough missions to shake a nightstick at, randomised enemy placements to add further variety, and a bundled level editor allows devious designers to create their own maps and missions. Rather than the flimsy framework I expected, Door Kickers is a complete package of planning, panicking and policing.

It’s also a simple game to pick up and play. Every task works intuitively, whether you’re infiltrating or incapacitating, and despite the possibility of meticulous planning, experimentation is encouraged. Draw up a plan and you don’t have to wait long to see it in action, groaning or celebrating depending on the outcome.

Elegantly and cleanly presented, Door Kickers presents the organisation and oft-violent operations of police squads without glamorising the militaristic qualities that Hardline seems to find so exciting. There’s plenty of detail in the maps and I’m always pleased by credible representations of actual places in our messy, modern world.

I installed the game on a Friday night and played it for most of the weekend that followed. I haven’t binged on it since then, but it’s ability to fill any amount of time – whether a coffee break or a spare day – is one of its finest qualities. The game continues to expand as well and developers Killhouse have committed to fixes, tweaks and additions.

Door Kickers is a tactical game with a theme rarely explored in games. After many hours of play, I find the results of actions a little too predictable. I’d like to see a morale system for NPCs, causing them to surrender or flee when a SWAT plan comes together, creating the possibility of additional chaos. But there’s no need to ask for more. Door Kickers is a hearty meal.

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79 Comments

  1. Holysheep says:

    Wow. Wolfenstein was already a wtf choice… but now, door kickers? Hello? We had original sin and Men of War AS 2 this year…

    • Themadcow says:

      Not sure Original Sin would qualify in the Tactics category (although it’s combat was gloriously tactical at times). Having not played Door Kickers, all it’s name and top down images remind me of is the Horse mask ability in Hotline Miami… but I appreciate it’s nothing like that.

      • Premium User Badge

        Oakreef says:

        They actually picked the games then made up the categories after the fact.

        • demicanadian says:

          Then Door Kickers would be “That almost mobile game that you spent 4 hours playing it non-stop than you never came back to it” category

        • Borodin says:

          Is that something you know somehow? Or is it just a wild supposition?

          • All is Well says:

            The Hivemind explicitly told us so when they announced the categories :)

    • Anthile says:

      I’m tempted to just link the Super Bunnyhop review here as I think seeing it in motion gives a much better idea of the gameplay.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        It’s one of the few games I’ve found myself recording videos of my missions to share with a couple of mates, just because of how cool it looks in motion when everything just flows. It’s almost a very lethal dance routine.

        • Monggerel says:

          wait are we talking about Hotline Miami

          • Stellar Duck says:

            Now that you mention it, we could be talking about both. :D

            I did mean Door Kickers though.

      • Holysheep says:

        Oh but I love door kickers and I know it’s great because I played it a lot, but it’s nowhere close to the best tactics game of 2014.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It would have been nice to see Original Sin as the winner, because the tactics were truly interesting and compelling for that type of game (if you had the right magic-focused party). And that would also give it the recognition it won’t get because Inquisition will take the RPG win. And I’m not sure Inquisition deserves it.

      OTOH, I haven’t played Doorkickers, and Original Sin wasn’t only a tactical game. So I can’t say It Wuz Robbed.

      • Premium User Badge

        Llewyn says:

        Nothing wuz robbed in any of these “categories” because they aren’t categories in any meaningful sense; they are simply titles to give the articles for the 24 games they’ve chosen for their Non Advent Calendar.

        Please, Hivemind, bring back the arbitrary numbered list next year. The inevitable misunderstandings around that were at least simpler.

        • green frog says:

          At first I recoiled when I saw they were going for a category system but as soon as I found out the games were picked first and the categories after the fact, I liked it. It’s effectively just the same old Advent Calendar but with a little bit of extra flavor this time.

          If people who weren’t paying attention get confused then that’s their own fault.

      • Themadcow says:

        Errr… if Inquisition gets the best RPG then this site should sit down and have a LONG hard look at itself. You can’t give it to a game that’s been so badly optimised for PC play can you? Hell, the rape of the tactical view is enough on it’s own to give the title to Original Sin.

      • Foosnark says:

        Original Sin has the strategic RPG overgame that winds up ruining the tactical aspects by making your characters too godlike to have to worry about tactics. I loved the game for a while, but it became tedious before I was through.

    • Borodin says:

      Oh dear. Not another “my opinion is better than your opinion” post. These are so tiresome.

      • Cinek says:

        Feel free to skip comments all together, cause it’s going to be many more of these.

    • slerbal says:

      Have you played it? Door Kickers is really great, well developed, deep and highly tactical and certainly deserves inclusion. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, even if sometimes it is insanely hard!

    • Joshua Northey says:

      Original Sin is definitely not a tactics game, and the categories don’t mean anything.

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      Now I want to play a game called “Original Sin and Men of War”.

    • Cinek says:

      Yep. I’m very surprised what this game is doing here. I went through half of it in a hope that it’ll get better, but it’s all the same, boring, uninspiring, simplistic pseudo-tactical game with an AI of half-brain ant.

      I mean: seriously – this game is just bad. I struggle to think of any single one one feature of this game that I would consider “great” yet alone “best”. If someone wants this style of a tactical game – get Frozen Synapse. It’s better on every front. And there’s plenty alternative tactical games that are much better than Door Kickers… like… FTL, Banner Saga, Xenonauts, new Man of War, new expansion to the Xcom, heck: even Arma Tactics is better than this.

      • elanaiba says:

        Cinek – as a developer of Door Kickers I’d really like to know more about how and why you disliked our game so much. Which version did you play?

        I’m a big fan of XCom and Frozen Synapse, and I wish I had more time to play The Banner Saga (kickstarted it) since it was so engrossing, but I feel our game – while not perfect and with a huge list of things I’d like to improve – stands good on its own.

        If you have time, I’d really like to hear more details on how Frozen Synapse, Arma Tactics, are so much better. I may agree or disagree, but I’d like to hear it from you and help us improve the game so you – the buyer – like it.

        You can post here or write via email – my inbox is always open: tomcat AT inthekillhouse DOT com.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          Yo! Since you’re here, can I beg for a slight change? Can you make it possible to change an earlier part of a plan without borking the later stages? Like, it’d be great to be able to move a waypoint without the rest of the plan vanishing.

          That’s really my only “complaint” and I use that term in its least serious form. I love the game.

          • Hanban says:

            Yes to this man’s suggestion! Bugged me as well. Love the game though!

          • elanaiba says:

            I’d love to have that feature and have written it down early in development (as well as each time we’ve got it requested by users – A LOT), but its not as easy as it sounds.

            I’ll keep bugging the programmer, though :)

            But, on the other hand, could you rate it in importance vs other features, say:
            – surrendering bad guys
            – troopers stacking and moving in formation
            – troopers visual coordination – 2 or more troopers that reach waypoints that have LOS and automatically continue once all are in position

            ?

          • Hanban says:

            I would probably rate it before any of those suggestions. The visual coordination thing is the only of your other picks that I would want. Anyways, the point about being able to change smaller aspects of the plan is that too many times I’ve needed to just tweak som smaller aspect of a long plan, only to kill off the rest of what ultimately worked well. It has been the source of frustration several times which is why I hope it can be implemented despite of being difficult!

        • cairbre says:

          Just bought the game can’t wait to try it sounds fun

      • Joshua Northey says:

        Meh Arma Tactics is terrible.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    Can someone explain to me who the bear is in the trophy? Surely it is not Horace as he is far too infinite to fit in such a small space.

    • LionsPhil says:

      There’s a portal in the trophy.

    • Chris D says:

      Were Horace to ever enter our set of dimensions fully he would destroy the universe as his infinite majesty would leave literally no room for anything else. Anytime Horace is sighted he has limited his true nature out of his mercy (or possibly just absent-mindedness). As such it is no less probable that he could fit inside a trophy than anywhere else in all of the space-time continuum.

      On the other hand it probably is just another bear as the nose looks different.

    • All is Well says:

      My explanation would be that because the infinite is impossible to accurately conceptualize, any and all conceptualizations and representations become equally valid.

    • Anthile says:

      Every simply connected, closed 3-manifold is homeomorphic to the 3-sphere.

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      Llewyn says:

      You’re naively assuming the bear is in the trophy. He isn’t, he stretches away infinitely into the distance.

    • DragonOfTime says:

      This is an interdimensional trophy, surely.

    • MacTheGeek says:

      The trophy is bigger on the inside.

    • Lanfranc says:

      Horace cannot be understood within the confines of simple four-dimensional space.

      That said, it doesn’t look very much like Horace.

  3. Stellar Duck says:

    I reckon Door Kickers is the planning part of Rainbow Six (the non shit ones) without the somewhat clunky shooter part.

    That’s great!

    It’s a bit less involved than Frozen Synapse.

    That’s also great.

    It’s really great!

    Can I also say: I called this one in the announcement post comments. :D I never call anything.

    • J. Cosmo Cohen says:

      I call my mom on Tuesday’s.

    • Cinek says:

      “It’s really great!” – it’s not-bad by mobile gaming standards but by PC gaming standards it’s far from reaching the “great” status.

      • elanaiba says:

        Door Kickers is not available on any other platform than PC (Win / Mac / Linux). So no Ipad or mobiles. Are you confusing us with something else?

      • Stellar Duck says:

        I disagree, obviously. :)

        I’m enjoying the time I spend with this game and I’m enjoying watching a plan go off without a hitch. As I said, it’s a lot like the Rainbow Six planning phase sans the fps bit. It allows for quick iterations on a plan as opposed to the more time consuming R6 where it took ages sometimes to just get to the point when a plan failed. I love both, for slightly different reasons.

        I like that this is fast and easy to play for a bit and return to later on for more.

  4. meepmeep says:

    This is going to be an expensive Christmas unless the winter sale helps us out a bit.

  5. Laurentius says:

    Heh, no matter how I squint my eyes it’s Faster Then Light: Advanced Edition for me all the way, The Banner Saga is absolutly excellent too, but must come second place. Door Kickers…nah…

    • Cinek says:

      Totally agreed. There’s so many different, MUCH better tactical games that I honestly have no idea what this 3rd grade production doing here. It belongs to people taking a break between Angry Birds and Candy Crush Saga, not any sort of “best tactics”.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I agree that FTL:AE is fantastic (and giving it to us for free is the mark of wonderful human beings), but I’m not sure if the hivemind will count it as a 2014 game. I did almost buy DoorKickers the other day though, and I sure will pick it up now, but I’m planning a KSP marathon this weekend first…

  6. Premium User Badge

    Llewyn says:

    One of the few early access games I’ve backed that’s turned out not only as well as, but probably better than, I’d hoped. Definitely one of my 24 games of the year (and last year).

  7. LennyLeonardo says:

    Fantastic game. Totally absorbing.

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    Kirrus says:

    I got this because it looked totally interesting, not had a chance to play yet, so guess it gets a bump!

    • w0bbl3r says:

      I own both, and doorkickers is by far the better game.
      B+C is far too fiddly, and not nearly as downright fun and inventive as DK.
      This is one of the best games I have played this year, and one of the best top down tactical games I have ever played.
      It deserves to be ranked alongside SWAT4, and I agree with the article in saying it’s a worthy follow-up.
      And it especially will be once the co-op mode is added later on. I can’t wait for that.

    • Hex says:

      Doorkickers is — in my experience/opinion — more streamlined and user-friendly than Breach & Clear. It was also playable on Steam (in EA form) well before B&C’s arrival to the store.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      What is your point?

      There are similar games out there? Guess all games are now crap since they all have other similar games.

  9. Creeping Death says:

    Everyone forget The Banner Saga came out this year?

    • karthink says:

      The tactical game in The Banner Saga is terrible. Every fight becomes a battle of attrition and the turn order system makes no sense. It also does not tie into the narrative at all. One of my fighters was stabbed in a dialog sequence but was available to fight in a grid battle two minutes later.

      • Frank says:

        The narrative and the metagame were about as poor as can be, but the tactical game was quite solid after I learned it.

        ( < KS backer, early multiplayer )

        Anyway, I'm not saying it's a contender for best tactics game this year.

      • Laurentius says:

        Lol wut ? The Banner Saga combat is great and tactical and quite innovative by getting rid of “to hit chance”, when you get used to this it gets deeply tactical. The onnly problem for me was how sparse actually combat was in TBS.

  10. SlimShanks says:

    Doorkickers is quite nice, although Xenonauts clearly has more tactics per square meter. Also more alien scum. I just find it hard to get fanatically invested in the destruction of my enemies when they’re just random junkies. Still, Doorkickers is a very unique offering, and is incredibly easy to get into. It’s cheap, looks great, has police brutality, and also DAKKA DAKKA.
    But! I feel that people are letting the devs off the hook too easy for not delivering the random campaigns and meta game that they promised. It’s still a kick-ass game, and it morphed into something fairly in line with what I imagined, but they definitely lied a wee bit. Whoops.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      For some reason RPS never seemed as excited about Xenonauts as I would have expected. It is very solid for as small scale a project as it was. I guess people would have been a lot more jazzed about it if it had come out when initially planned. I think some of the momentum dissipated.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I suspect Xenonauts’ extremely drab art style also did enthusiasm for it no favours.

      • El_Emmental says:

        There’s also the feeling that it’s just “more of the same” X-COM action, a HD remake for people stuck in the past. I’m pretty sure the RPS writers are terribly afraid of being grown-up adults finding refuge in old remakes of their childhood games, losing touch with the gaming world.

        Like they sometime make articles about an old game they liked, that defined them as gamers, but very rarely actually go back to older games (for a HD, Complete Overhaul, or Entire New Campaign mod), play them and tell people about it on RPS.

        edit: [rant]
        There’s also that global hostility regarding crowdfunded projects doing a modern take of an older game: first it feeds the stereotype of the basement dweller adultchild who refuse to grow up and accept “modern” gaming, second it is perceived as “wasting” efforts and funds at only recreating something that doesn’t need to be created, instead of creating something completely new and exciting, yada yoda.

        I strongly disagree with such analysis regarding crowdfunded projects starting from an older game: a lot of game designs and game mechanics are no longer commercially viable, despite having an insane potential regarding creativity, depth and originality. The evolution of technology and game-making tools now allow us to explore these lands even further.

        Meanwhile, growing up isn’t throwing away your personality and culture to become a generic empty shell trying to fit in. To me growing up is accepting who you are and iterate from that, refine and use your previous self as a building base.

        And supporting these projects isn’t wasting any effort: people wouldn’t be more excited about that quirky indie game prototype made during a game jam, then polished for 3 more weeks and distributed freely or at $5, if there wasn’t that crowdfunded project – it is 2 different things. [/rant]

        • Hanban says:

          A problem I find with these “HD remakes” is that they bring so little new to the table. I liked Xenonauts, but I think it’s way too close to the old X-Com games for its own good. Mixing it up just a little with the story, escalation, or whatever would have been a great service to the game. Also it becomes a bit of a chore towards the end-game.

    • elanaiba says:

      I’m a Door Kicker Dev. I’m not sure which meta game we were supposed to add and didn’t, but ideas get thrown in and out a lot during game development.

      As for the random campaign, we haven’t completely abandoned but felt that based on user feedback and other features status we felt our focus should be elsewhere. As with any early access title, there is an amount of ‘subject to change’ on any published feature list, hope you understand.

      I completely understand where you’re coming from, though, for me any tactical game should be done with random / procedural generated campaigns in mind, and we’d like to get there ;) Being a small dev team with limited budget, we take our steps small.

  11. AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

    Is this still on Early Acess? I remember from the review that a random ongoing campaign was still planned. What I’d like would be a game like this but in which you have a limited team, a set of randomly generated missions (perhaps following a simple plot), and permadeath.

    OK so when I put it like that it sounds like I want SWAT XCOM.

    • Joshua Northey says:

      SWAT XCOM is a great idea.

    • elanaiba says:

      Door Kickers has moved from Early Access to full release on October the 22nd. We believe its stands as a good game even though as always some planned features didn’t make the release feature list.

      We are still working on the game and updating it, have just released the third patch with new weapons and a new campaign, and another major one is planned for mid-to-late December.

      Depending on many factors we’d still like to add many things including a true building generator, generated campaigns and multiplayer.

  12. wodin says:

    Combat Mission Red Thunder takes my No1 tactical release of the year but DoorKickers is a great game.

    • BlackAlpha says:

      Combat Mission Black Sea will probably be released in the coming weeks. So, there’s that one to consider as well.

  13. Henke says:

    Ah, I would’ve liked Valkyria Chronicles to get it. Not necessarily because it does tactics better, but because it’s a game with tactics that I’m enjoying more than I did DoorKickers. Oh well, fingers crossed for the Best Strategy and, uh… Best Something or Other awards.

  14. bill says:

    Huh. This was in a humble bundle right? But it looked so generic that I assumed it’d be rubbish and avoided the whole bundle.
    Whoops.

  15. JustAchaP says:

    I still need to play more of this. I find the controls take a bit of getting used to.

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    bonuswavepilot says:

    “…take the time to peak under the door…” I think you mean ‘peek’.

    This concludes the pedantic irrelevancies – we now return you to your regularly scheduled comments section.